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Gold rush . . . Morgan Henderson in action for North Otago earlier this season. PHOTO: CASWELL IMAGES

Great things are happening in North Otago women’s rugby, and a new generation of young stars are revelling in the opportunities they are getting. One of those is Morgan Henderson, the dynamic flanker who is starring for the Otago Spirit in the national championship. Hayden Meikle tracks her down for a chat.

Q: How old are you, Morgan?
I’m 19.

Q: Are you originally from Oamaru?
I was born in Tauranga but we came here when I was really young. This is home.

Q: When did you first get into rugby?
Just in year 11, actually. A couple of teachers convinced me to give it a go. I’d been a rower for a while, and I’d played football and basketball and netball, and I was looking for something else that was more aggressive, ha ha. We had a good bunch of girls at Waitaki Girls’ – the Crabbes, and Cheyenne Cunningham – so it was good fun playing with them.

Q: What do you love about the sport?
Just that you’re putting your body on the line for your team-mates. It’s really good for bonding, for bringing people together. And the physical stuff – that’s the best part.

Q: Are you from a sporty family?
Not really. No-one else is really into sport. Mum’s starting to follow the rugby, which is nice.

Q: Did you enjoy the club season with the North Otago women’s team?
Yeah, it’s been really good. They’re a really supportive team. They brought me out of my awkward shell, you could say. And I found Kilifi [Fangupo] and Tai [Halalele] to be really good coaches. It’s a good sort of cultural mix.

Q: Who has been your biggest influence or mentor?
I’d say Sarah Crabbe. She played at school when I was there, and she helped me out a lot. Now she’s in the Spirit team with me and she plays loose forward as well, so I learn a lot off her.

Q: Did you expect to make the Spirit this year?
Kilifi just really encouraged me to go for it and to go to trainings and try hard. It just happened from there. It was quite daunting at first. Remembering calls and stuff was quite hard. But we’ve got really good coaches, and I’ve got some North Otago girls around me who are a great support.

Q: What’s your goal in rugby?
It would be nice just to keep moving up the ranks, and obviously representing New Zealand one day would be very cool. I don’t even know if that will be possible, but all I can do is keep working hard.

Q: What about away from rugby? What do you do?
I like spending a lot of time in the gym. That’s my thing. And I’m doing some work with a special needs boy, doing gardening and stuff, through CCS. I’m also applying for the army. That could be exciting. It’s always been at the back of my mind. I like fitness, and I want to be physically and mentally tested, so that could be ideal.